Forecasting, goal-seeking, and magical stories for digital analytics

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Although the title of this blog posting has all the ingredients to attract the eyes of an analyst, the content is targeted for all personalities of a digital marketing organization. Before we jump into the marketing analytic use case regarding forecasting, scenario analysis, and goal-seeking  for digital analytics, let's spend some time on the magic of stories. As Tom Davenport stated in his fantastic article titled, Telling a Story with Data:

"The essence of analytical communication is describing the problem and the story behind it, the model, the data employed, and the relationships among the variables in the analysis. When the relationships among variables are identified, the meaning of the relationships should be interpreted, stated, and presented relevant to the problem. The clearer the results presentation, the more likely that the quantitative analysis will lead to decisions and actions—which are, after all, usually the point of doing the analysis in the first place."

While creative visionaries and data scientists are both tremendous organizational assets within a team, it is the alliance between these two segments that will push marketing forward. Although aspirational, this is a difficult challenge to overcome. Let me begin by sharing a bit of my story - one that began with a four year career start in graphic design and creative marketing communications, and then making a leap to the quantitative side of marketing. I've seen and listened to how DIFFERENT these two segments of the marketing world are, and now as a preacher for the potential of marketing analytics, one's ability to make analysis interpretable and approachable is critical.

Google recently published a nice article titled, Staffing Your Marketing Measurement Team: Why You Need Data Storytellers, and one takeaway that I love from this piece is:

"The true value of data emerges when marketers are able to use it to tell a meaningful story. Enter the data storyteller, or marketing measurement analyst. This is the person who can push the tools, translate insights across the business, and motivate stakeholders to participate."

This quote nails the crux of the issue - if we don't take ACTION on the insights of analytics, it was nothing but a school project. Influencing decision-makers within an organization isn't easy, and if they do not understand the analysis, nothing will ever change. There are people who are good at creative marketing strategy, and there are people who are good at marketing analytics. However, there aren't many people who can toggle between the two, and serve as the translator who inspires both sides.

In my personal opinion, the recent surge in analytic technologies becoming more approachable is key. The special ingredient in that trend is visualization and analytics joining forces in ways we have never seen before. Why is this happening? Seeing and understanding data is richer than creating a collection of queries, dashboards, and workbooks. According to the infamous American mathematician John W. Tukey:

"The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.”

The "ah-ha" moment. The best part of my work day!

In addition, when analytics becomes approachable, interpretable, and transparent to the entire marketing organization, the behavioral change of how we work together highlighted in this video becomes a reality:

Visual Analytics represents a new category of interactive and collaborative technology to provide a path to be curious and innovative. Marketers are imaginative, and are constantly pushing to analyze new and exciting data sources (i.e. clickstream, social, IoT wearables, etc.), which require the ability to scale to very large amounts of information. However, what is different here is the ability to perform sophisticated analysis, and produce visualizations to support data-driven storytelling.

Finally, we arrive at the digital analytic use case. The intention is to highlight my personal approach to tip-toeing that fine line of producing meaningful analysis, while narrating the marketing storyline. Here is the description of the business case, and my demonstration video.

Business Challenge:

How do I allocate digital media spend to drive more traffic to my website in a future time period?

Marketing Applications:

  1. Identify the most important acquisition channels (i.e. attribution)
  2. Simulate & optimize ad spend to acquire incremental traffic and meet business objective

Let me know what you think in the comments section below. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out my other work here. Lastly, if you would like to connect on social media, link with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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About Author

Suneel Grover

Advisory Solutions Architect

Suneel Grover is an Advisory Solutions Architect supporting Digital Intelligence, Marketing Analytics and Omni-Channel Marketing at SAS. By providing client-facing services for SAS in the areas of predictive analytics, digital analytics, visualization and data-driven integrated marketing, Grover provides technical consulting support in industry verticals such as media, entertainment, hospitality, communications, and sports. In addition to his role at SAS, Grover is an professorial lecturer at The George Washington University (GWU) in Washington DC, teaching in the Masters of Science in Business Analytics graduate program within the School of Business and Decision Science. Through this hybrid of activity, he provides thought leadership through white papers, featured speaker presentations, and program advisory services for entities such as the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), Indiana University (IUSB), University of Missouri (UMSL), Radford University (RU-COBE), and New York University (NYU-SCPS). In addition to his contributions to industry and academia, Grover has a MBA in Marketing Research & Decision Science from The George Washington University (GWU) and a MS in Integrated Marketing Analytics from New York University (NYU).

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